On May 25th, Karsten Ruf, SAP, provided America’s SAP User Group a webcast on SAP BusinessObjects Mobile Business Intelligence, sponsored by the ASUG Mobility Special Interest Group. The week before, SAP made the comment that “BI follows you where you are” and puts “BI in your hands” with Mobile BI.
Please keep in mind that this does include things that are related to the future and that these things are subject to change and that the usual SAP disclaimer applies.
· SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI
· Future Directions
Figure 1: Key Trends, Source: SAP
As Figure 1 shows, as data expands, we see a lot more data being used, more ways to consume and use. People are also finding it easier to find the information without going through their IT teams.
We are moving towards more collaboration in decision-making. People are mobile and distributed so we need to find ways to collaborate on mobile devices. This past year has been the “year of the tablet”, according to Karsten, and this happened in a short timeframe.
In summary, Karsten said to use SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI Solutions to “make informed decisions with instant access to targeted, personalized information wherever you are”. As an example, you are looking at information on our mobile device everywhere, such as stopping at Starbucks and have a quick glance at your mobile device. This is a different way of consuming mobile BI information versus desktop browsers. Information must be compact and provided differently to the user and used “wherever” from the board room to the shop floor.
SAP BusinessObjects Mobile BI
Figure 2, Source: SAP
Figure 2 is an overview of the solution and has 2 components. The top part of Figure 2 is existing reports; a use case is someone in IT is creating a report and pushes out those reports to the user group. This solution has been out since 3.1 for Blackberry, Nokia, and Windows Mobile. This is targeted content as someone creates structure and it is consumed on a mobile device but it is not full-on interactive.
Second part is more free form which is search and exploration. SAP BusinessObjects Explorer has a mobile solution where users can explore. The idea here is not to have pre-created content but to have something users can explore a data set without having to go through an already designed structure. As an example, users could enter a search term, and see what questions can be answered. It is free-form and unstructured, “search and discover”. The mobile solution is available today in the ITunes store.
Figure 3 Blackberry Example, Source: SAP
Web Intelligence and Crystal Reports content and leverage infrastructure underneath and display on mobile devices. The solution primarily started out with BlackBerry as shown in Figure 3 which shows a Web Intelligence report with rows to links to more detail. The idea is to have information on device and leverage what you have on the BI stack. You can leverage security – the mobile server on the back end is secure and compressed. You can store these reports offline. You can set up alerts such as the salesman over cameras since it is red and 4.1% behind target.
Figure 3 also shows the operating systems supported. 4.0 is in ramp-up now.
Figure 4 – Examples on iPad, Source: SAP
Figure 4 shows some examples on the iPad. Instead of taking the WebI report and displaying it on the Blackberry, here the iOS devices render the report.
Figure 5: Source, SAP
Figure 5 shows a sample of micro-charts, something not available in WebI. The top left of Figure 5 shows the dataset for each row for each city, using conditional formatting with the progress bar. On the right of Figure 5 is a reflection of more interactivity with the prompts.
Figure 6, WebI to iPad Example Source: SAP
Figure 6 shows simplicity for the designer. The left side shows how the report looks in Web Intelligence and the right shows how it looks in the iPad with “no magic in between”, said Karsten. It picks up the report object and transforms it to fit the screen. If you did this in the iPhone (planned to be supported in Q3) then only the table would show up in the first view, and the chart in the second. Web Intelligence is supported in this version, with Crystal coming in the future.
Figure 7: Source, SAP
Figure 7 shows BusinessObjects Explorer is looking across a lot of data sources, and it is fast since it is in-memory. Contextual exploration is available as elements relate to each other. An example is the chart is based on an algorithm of data based on facets. This solution has been around for the iPad and the iPhone, 3.x and 4.x.
The mobile application of BusinessObjects Explorer is available now for free in the iTunes store.
Figure 8: Source: SAP
Figure 8 shows what is coming in the next release. The next release will incorporate data not just from the backend and shows a device that is “location aware”, showing the concept of “where am I” and how does this relate to the data could be. Examples of this are shown in Figures 9-11.
Figure 9: Source: SAP
Figure 9 displays what the camera, street view, where located and show the base data.
Figure 10: Source, SAP
Figure 10 shows what is in the neighborhood and display the distance from where you are at.
Figure 11: Source SAP
As Figure 11 shows, you could also use it to get more data, called “augmented reality”, something starting with in this release and expanding more in future releases.
Figure 12, Mobile BI 4.0 Architecture, Source: SAP
Figure 12 shows the architecture. The mobile Blackberry relies on the Mobile Server that gets installed with BI 4.0 using a dedicated TCP connection.
The mobile iOS solution goes through a .war file, an application server. The Explorer application also goes through a .war file, application server. Explorer connects to the Explorer server on the back end.
Figure 13: Exploration Views, Source, SAP
Exploration Views are available now from the Innovation Center on SCN. Techonlogy-wise, this is Explorer.
Figure 13 shows an example. Each of the pieces are Explorer pieces. Karsten said it is building a dashboard with structure. It is still in memory, and planned to come to Explorer at the end of the year but it is coming from this pre-created dashboard concept.
Today Karsten said they have an interactive experience for the users, native applications (Web Intelligence with new charting library), in-memory. Sybase Afaria is supported today and will work to enhance in the future.
As for the future, announced at SAPPHIRE, it is planned to offer more HANA (new in-memory engine) support, augmented reality, and exploration views (adding dashboard views to in-memory). It is planned to have more devices will be supported such as the Android and the Playbook (Playbook was demonstrated at ASUG Annual Conference the other week). They are working on the iOS devices as well (iPad, iPhone, iTouch). They are planning on Sybase Unwired platform support and integration at the end of the year (encryption, data compression).
Longer-term the theme is “harmonization”. Now have Crystal and Web Intelligence as data sources and expand to other data sources. They would like have more consistent visualizations in the future. They are also targeting more BI on Demand in the future.
Questions & Answer (note this is a subset of Q&A and paraphrased/edited from the actual questions):
Q: What about iOS Support for 3.x?
A: 3.x BOE support with come with SP 4
Q: What is going on with support SWF files and Apple devices?
A: Xcelsius team is looking into this now and it is in the research stage. Think about what you want to accomplish. If you want to provide dashboarding on the iPad, you can do this with existing functionality today Web Intelligence and BusinessObjects Explorer future applications.
Q: What about converting existing Web Intelligence reports to mobile devices?
A: This is not really necessary according to Karsten. For the Blackberry devices it is WYSIWYG and it is a Java-based application and it doesn’t make use of the rendering on the device. You want to design it so the user doesn’t have to scroll so much. You want to build a report that can be easily consumed (see Figure 3) It will reuse infrastructure underneath the application such as the query, prompts, etc.
New iOS version is different – iPad has bigger screen real estate – see Figure 6 of WebI to iPad example.
You have to ask yourself if existing browser report will also be used the same way on the mobile device; review the use case.
Q: What about mobile BI on Android devices?
A: Targeted for the end of the year
Q: What is the basis for the licensing model?
A: Defer to the SAP sales team
Q: What are the plans for BI Mobile for SUP?
A: Will integrate with SUP infrastructure towards the end of the year (planned)
Q: Does BI 4.0 support iPads now?
A: Not right now but service pack 02, coming in June, will supply the .war file shown in Figure 12. Current ramp-up service pack 01 does not have the .war file
Q: What are the server requirements for implementing Mobile BI? Can we use the existing application server or do we need to add additional servers?
A: Depends on your specific situation, you can use existing servers; footprint is slim.
Q: What are the architecture details for connecting mobile devices via the Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) to ensure secure connectivity?
A: It does make use of the BES security; details are in the administrator guide on Service Marketplace
Q: We are using BusinessObjects Explorer on the iPhone and iPad. Should we go and use MobI server? What do we gain?
A: You have a choice to go through it or bypass it. If you use it, you gain registration on the backend; you see who is using the application and who has access.
Q: Customer is on ramp up with 4.0 in a Linux environment. Can Mobile BI be installed in a Linux environment?
A: Not in a supported fashion. Right now it is supported in a Windows server.
Q: Need to deploy applications on IPad, Android and Playbook. Would like to deploy a WebI and Analysis report. Is there any additional coding required for this?
A: Now only support iOS; no coding required for the WebI. Others are not released yet
Q: When we install this application, is there anything specific we need to install to the mobile device?
A: You install the applications to the device to connect to BOE or Explorer backend.
Q: Are there any size limitations on the report?
A: About 1100 cells per block and about 2200 per report. This is improving with future releases
Q: On 4.0 ramp-up, once you have the reports on the iOS devices, would we have offline access as well?
A: Yes, this is how the device is set up – you connect to BOE server you download and view it from there.
Special thanks to Jim Spath for moderating this webcast and Karsten Ruf for providing this webcast to ASUG.